NCVO to celebrate centenary in 2019

NCVO has announced plans to mark its 100th anniversary with the launch of a new book and a series of events celebrating the achievements of voluntary action over the last century.

NCVO will be 100 years old in 2019. Founded in 1919 as the National Council of Social Service (NCSS), the organisation was established using a gift from a voluntary sector pioneer who was killed in the first world war.

Edward Birchall had been a leading figure in the contemporary ‘guilds of help’ movement, a voluntary forerunner of what we would now recognise as social services. Aged just 32, he died from wounds sustained in the Battle of the Somme, leaving a legacy of a thousand pounds which was used to set up the NCSS.

The destitution caused by the first world war resulted in a surge of voluntary activity with thousands of new organisations springing up across the country. The new national body would connect and represent the vast variety of new organisations that had emerged.

The war taught us that men and women, of whatever creed, party or social position, could be united by common ideal, and could find happiness and new power through service in common cause. Cannot the ideal of social betterment unite us in peace?... Cooperation in the service of others is the only true basis for unity.

– Letter from James Lowther to the Times in 1920, Speaker of the House of Commons and the first President of NCSS

As well as providing advice and support to many new organisations, NCSS developed numerous initiatives itself, often before helping to establish them as independent charities in their own right. It was renamed the National Council for Voluntary Organisations in 1980. NCVO played a major role in helping to establish the organisations that would become the Youth Hostels Association, Age UK, the Charities Aid Foundation, Citizens Advice, among many others.

NCVO will be celebrating the achievements of voluntary action over the last century through a series of events and publications across 2019.

A new book, authored by Dr Justin Davis Smith, a researcher at Cass Business School’s Centre for Charity Effectiveness, explores the history of NCVO and the voluntary sector over the past century. 100 years of NCVO and voluntary action: Idealists and realists will be published by Palgrave in May 2019. The history will cover NCVO’s origins at the beginning of the twentieth century, its role in supporting and incubating new organisations and initiatives, and its role of today – connecting, representing and supporting over 14,000 voluntary organisations.

Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive of NCVO said:

The story of NCVO is closely intertwined with the story of charities and volunteering in the UK and we thank them all for making a difference to the world we live in. NCVO’s centenary presents an opportunity to reflect on our collective achievements over the last 100 years and, crucially, to look ahead to the future.

Dr Justin Davis Smith, senior research fellow at Cass Business School, said:

This history examines NCVO's pivotal contribution to the development of the voluntary movement over the past 100 years. It details its numerous achievements, but also the challenges it has faced, and asks what will be needed for it to retain its leadership role in the fast-changing world of twenty-first- century voluntary action.

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